Introduction to the Study

The purpose of this paper is to briefly propose a concept for a WTEC international assessment of human-robot interaction (HRI).The geographic scope includes primarily the leading countries in Asia: Japan, South Korea, and the People’s Republic of China.



This study builds on recent WTEC international studies of R&D on brain-computer interfaces (BCI) and robotics. The “BCI” study included some facets of the HRI field, in particular, the use of internal and external sensors of brain waves to control prosthetic limbs and computers. It was sponsored by NSF (CBET and ENG), NIH (NINDS and NIBIB), the U.S. Army TATRC unit, the Anderson Brain Restoration Foundation, and the National Space Biomedical Research Institute. Chair Ted Berger led an eight-person expert panel to study leading research at 27 labs in Europe and Asia. Springer has recently published a book version of the final report as a part of its international technology series (Berger 2008). 
Another recent WTEC report covered the broad field of robotics, including some coverage of the extensive national programs for personal and service robots to assist aging populations. The study was sponsored by NSF (ENG and CISE), NASA and NIH (NIBIB). The delegation studied 50 leading labs in Europe and Asia. The final report has been published by the Imperial College Press (Bekey 2008). Full text of all WTEC reports may be found at
WTEC has a study underway in R&D for mobility for people with disabilities, chaired by David Reinkensmeyer. This project has some coverage of robotics in Europe. It is sponsored by two offices in the NSF Engineering Directorate. Information is available at





This paper is a brief concept, by which WTEC offers to conduct an assessment in Asia of the current status and the trends of research in HRI.  The objectives of an international assessment would be to:

  • Guide and justify U. S. research investments
  • Look for good ideas abroad (technology transfer)
  • Look for opportunities for cooperation and collaboration
  • Compare U.S. R&D programs and status with those abroad

A panel of U.S. experts, nominated by sponsoring agencies and recruited by WTEC, will  conduct the study, using the WTEC methodology of peer reviews of research abroad, visiting the sites of the research institutions and researchers who are noted for the most advanced work in Asia.  The results will be presented in a public workshop soon after the panel returns from abroad.   An academic quality final report will serve to disseminate the results widely.




Ethical issues
Insurance/government coverage
Establishing infrastructure 

Research areas that could be discussed include the following (part of the agenda of the 2007 HRI conference):

User studies of HRI
Experiments on HRI collaboration
Ethnography and field studies
Metrics for teamwork
Mixed initiative interaction
HRI foundations
Multi-modal interaction
Autonomy and trust
HRI group dynamics
HRI software architectures
Task allocation and coordination
Robot intermediaries
Lifelike robots
Remote robots
HRI communication
Robot-team learning
Risks such as privacy or safety
Individual vs. group HRI 
Organizational/society impact
Awareness and monitoring of humans
Implicit dialogue

Technology research for HRI might also include: 

Robot sensing of human input: visual, audio, gestural, neural, biological
Human modeling for interpreting sensing
Human modeling for providing therapies

o Impact of human impairment

Feedback and control systems

o internal
o across interface
o HRI dialog

Learning/adapting systems

Modeling of emergencies “Robby, I’ve fallen and can’t get up.!”
Modeling for robot as first medical responder
Power supplies, power systems

o mobility of power
o wirelessness
o emergency power

Safety systems
Research protocols

Advanced assistive applications might be one of the subtopics including.

Post surgery
Chronic disability
Physical therapy

o Robot use for mobility analysis
o Robot use for corrective therapy

Specific Societal Issues might include:

Psychological acceptance by users
Dehumanizing aspect of robot assistance 

Finally, beyond the above technical issues, the study may also address the following non-technical issues: 

Mechanisms for enhancing interdisciplinary cooperation in the field
Opportunities for shortening the lead time for deployment of new technologies emerging from the laboratory
Long range research, educational, and infrastructure issues that need to be addressed to promote better progress in the field



  1. Brain-Computer Interfaces: An International Assessment of Research and Development Trends
  2. State of the Art and Future Challenges, Imperial College Press, 2008.
  3. WTEC website


Contact Information

  1. Ephraim Glinert, NSF,, 703-292-8930
  2. Frank Huband, WTEC,, 202-480-WTEC(9832)
  3. Mike DeHaemer, WTEC,, 410-659-0108

    The Panel

    • Manuela Veloso
      (Panel Chair)
      The Carnegie Mellon University
    • Mindy Aisen
      Cerebral Palsy International Research Foundation and Rancho los Amigos
    • Ayanna Howard
      Georgia Tech
    • Chad Jenkins
      Brown University
    • Maja Mataric
      University of Southern California
    • Bigle Mutlu
      University of Wisconsin-Madison

  • Sponsor